Cruz Azul eliminates Tijuana, joins Toluca in CONCACAF Champions League finals

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Overcoming the 1-0 deficit it took into Wednesday’s second leg, Cruz Azul has eliminated Club Tijuana from  CONCACAF Champions League, with a Javier Guemez own goal combining with Julio Domínguez’s second half winner to move La Machina one step closer to the club’s record sixth confederation title. Showing Xolos out of the semifinals with a 2-0 (2-1, aggregate) win, Cruz Azul moves on to face Toluca, with the Diablos Rojos set to visit Estadio Azul next week to kick off the confederation final.

Luis Fernando Tena’s men left Estadio Caliente last week with a one-goal deficit after a late Cristian Pellerano penalty conversion gave Xolos a halftime lead. Tijuana gave that advantage back early on Wednesday when Guemez deflected a Gerardo Flores cross past goalkeeper Cirilo Saucedo. Though the visitors were able to preserve that scoreline through half time, Domínguez’s goal five minutes into the sent Tijuana crashing out of the competition.

It’s the third time in six years La Machina will be CONCACAF’s final, with the Mexico City-based club now tied with Monterrey with the most finals spots since the tournament’s redesign in 2008. But whereas the Rayados have won each of their three appearances, Cruz Azul has lost twice, with defeats to Atlante (2009) and Pachuca (2010) leaving the team on five CONCACAF titles.

Should they break through against Toluca, it will be the first time in 17 years the team’s claimed the confederation’s crown. It will also move Cruz Azul ahead of Club América to sit alone with the most titles in CONCACAF history.

The Red Devils, on the other hand, are looking for the club’s third title, having last claimed CONCACAF’s title in 2003.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia